Quick Franada one-shot I've been working on-and-off on for a few months to get my writer's spirit flowing. I wasn't originally going to post it, but everyone who read a hard copy of it loved it, so I figured I might as well share. ^^
Happiness was never meant to be mine.
It always has and always will belong to my brother, Alfred.
And that's something I've come to accept.
"Matt! Damn it, let me out of here!"
My brother pounds on the door to the secret entrance the two of us found years ago in the study of our palace. There is no record of the passage in the blueprints of the building or the volumes of history about the kingdom passed on to the two of us, and I don't believe our parents were even aware of its presence. That's what makes it perfect.
"Go, Alfred. I know Arthur's waiting for you just outside of town. You shouldn't keep him too much longer or else he'll get worried."
Arthur always worries about Alfred. No matter how obnoxious my brother can be or how much danger his own kingdom is in, Arthur worries about Alfred above all else. The only time I can recall Arthur remembering I existed was when my brother first brought our people into the Great War, the war that is currently being fought, and begged me to talk him out of it. I was hurt then, but now I understand. Preserving my brother was the reason I was born.
When my father was still alive, he had a favorite saying concerning the birth of us, his twin boys. He'd say, "Heaven created such a perfect little boy," referring to my brother because he came out of the womb first, "that it tried to make another."
He never forgot the "tried", even when I was in the room and old enough to understand the implication, which was that heaven had failed with me. He never saw me as fit to run the kingdom, and when he drew his last breath he gave the throne to Alfred.
I wasn't bitter or even surprised. He loved Alfred best.
I don't have many memories of my mother, but I have the feeling that she was more equal in her affections than my father. Sometimes, though, I wonder if her love towards me was filled with pity, not true compassion, and then her warm smile, the only thing I remember clearly, loses all meaning.
"Fuck Matt, what are you doing?!"
I can't tell my brother what I'm doing. He'd break down the door if he found out, and then that happiness he was always destined to have will be lost.
What my brother doesn't know is that the enemy is on its way with any army thousands thick, their intention not to take the city but his life.
I found out weeks ago and, to avoid any unnecessary civilian casualties, I had been gradually evacuating the city. Alfred noticed that much, and when he asked I lied and said opposing forces were planning a massacre here. That was when he planned a grand escape for the two of us, the last residents of our grand city. We had always planned on using the secret passage in the palace that, if followed to the end, lead to the outskirts of town, but while Alfred thought we'd both take it, I always planned on him going alone.
"There's only one way out of there now that I've locked the door. If you want to find out what I'm doing, you'll have to follow the path to the end and come back."
Even if he runs both ways, Alfred won't make it back in time to stop me. From the large window that overlooks the entire north half of the town I can already see the army approaching fast.
My brother growls and bangs the door one last time. "Don't… don't do anything stupid while I'm gone! Are you listening to me Matt?! I'm coming right back for you!"
The muffled echo of my brother's feet running away doesn't find its way to my ears for very long. He's always been fast, but the army is already figuring out that no one's in the houses they keep breaking the doors off of, and it's increasing the rate of their progress towards the palace.
I don't have much time, but I also don't have much left to do.
In the corner of this grand room there is a desk I've used to organize the political documents pertaining to our side of the war. Alfred and I agreed together that he'd handle the fighting on the battlefield while I stayed in the capitol and did all I could to end the war with a pen instead of a sword. The power my brother trusted me with was more than my father ever would have allowed, but Alfred was too eager to fight by Arthur's side to care about a dead man's wishes.
I go to the desk and open a drawer filled with blank paper. Haphazardly hidden beneath the papers is a small dagger meant to act as a paper opener. Last week I had sharpened it and now I am going to use it to seal my fate.
With the dagger in hand, I walk to a golden-trimmed mirror hanging on the wall at eye level and, before I can chicken out and run after my brother in the secret passage, I grab my hair and chop it off, chunk by chunk, until it's the same length as Alfred's. As each piece blond strand falls unceremoniously to the ground, I feel "Matthew" silently die, even though, thanks to some record editing I worked on in the weeks leading up to now, Matthew never existed in the first place.
He was never born and his death will not be remembered as his own.
I don't worry about anyone missing Matthew. To the world, the only feature that differentiated him from Alfred was the few extra inches of hair, but now that those inches lay on the ground, the two are one in the same.
I wonder if the violet-tint in my eyes and the lighter blond hairs I see reflected in the mirror are something my mind has conjured to give me hope that my brother and I are not identical, that I have worth in this world.
It is a silly hope.
Now that Matthew was never born and my hair has been cut, I am nothing.
…An odd thought hits me.
It asks, "Do you think Francois would be sad to see your hair cut?"
And I wonder why my brain must bring up such a subject in my final moments of freedom.
Francois is a distant relative of my mother's and he was the reason I let my hair grow longer than Alfred's. When I was small, he was the only person who chose to spend time with me because I was me. Others spent time with me as well, but it was only because they mistook me for Alfred.
Francois never made the mistake. He knew exactly who he was giving his time to, and I couldn't fathom why he kept giving it to me.
I once asked him why he never entertained Alfred like everyone else did, and, after thinking over his answer, he replied, "I like your hair better. You should grow it out."
Back then, the ten years that divided us made him like a god to me, and his simple suggestion was not something I could disobey. I let my hair grow and grow, cutting it only when it snaked past my shoulders, all so I could show the man who showed me kindness that I listened and did as he said.
I have not seen Francois since he told me to let my hair grow.
He has a kingdom of his own to run now, and there are rumors that he is a very busy man in the bedroom.
I do not believe he even remembers me, nonetheless cares about the state of my hair.
So, no, I don't think his emotions will be changed because of my missing hair.
I move my glasses and angrily rub at my eyes. Soldiers will be here any moment, and they cannot see "Alfred" crying, especially over memories of a man who has surely changed over the years. I would not be doing Alfred justice if any invading army found him crying.
Sure enough, I hear the stomps of soldiers invade my home, signaling the beginning of the end of whomever or whatever I am now that I have been stripped of my identity.
It does not take them long to find me, and when they do I am standing strongly in front of the view of my city. I am sure that I look like the proud king I am intimidating, and the soldiers who charge in and push me to my knees do not look like they suspect I became Alfred only a few minutes prior. I do not fight my captors, a thing I realize is very unlike my brother, but I would like my death to be as quick as possible.
The men around me shout in a language I can't translate on the spot, but whatever they said has gotten their leader -a large, blond man with the coldest blue eyes I've ever seen- to enter the room. Without ever being on the battlefield against this man, I am familiar with his appearance. His name is Ludwig, and he is the king my brother and Arthur have been fighting for months.
I believe that he will also be the one to order my death under the impression that I am Alfred.
"I see you were expecting us." His tone is very condescending. Ludwig is confident in his victory over a man who was found unarmed and unprepared. I feel no guilt for tricking him. "But you may be surprised to hear I do not wish to take your capitol."
I fake the surprise he is expecting. He grins in satisfaction.
"Sorry to disappoint, but we've come to kill you and gain the advantage in this war." He barks orders at his men and they lift me to my feet with my arms twisted painfully behind my back. I wipe the counterfeit surprise off my face and replace it with a defiant scowl fitting my brother's rebellious nature.
I cannot imagine Alfred making any other face when confronted with death under such circumstances. If death came to him when he was old and had lived a good life, he might smirk, but this Alfred I portray has neither lived long nor had a very good life, so he scowls at the inevitable as though doing so will alter the course already laid out before him.
I am led down this path with two soldiers, one on either side of me. One is silent, his face set in a grim line and his grip on me only a tight as it needs to be. I do not know this man, but it feels like he has become numb to his orders of escorting a fellow human being to its death. He is doing this out of necessity to further his country's goals, no matter what his morals tell him. This has reduced him to no better than a programmable machine and I expect no sympathy from him.
The other is neither quiet nor apathetic to the events unfolding around him. On his face is a sadistic smile and his grip on me is randomly strengthened to the point of being unbearable in hopes that I break and cry out in pain. I come close to giving him the satisfaction a few times, and coming close is enough to extract the laugh of a madman from his throat. He, unlike his fellow soldier, has fully embraced what is going on around him and derives pleasure from it. I am reminded of a twisted clown and I expect him to cheer when my blood is spilt.
Together, these men are like the two faces of war and I, the sacrifice of nothing, a death that will ultimately neither advance nor hinder them in this war, represent all the innocent lives they have taken.
Or, at least, I like to think that I represent something. Maybe I am still nothing until I die in my brother's name. I'm not quite sure.
The cheers of thousands of soldiers sound the moment I step out of the castle and into the twilight.
They have been waiting for me.
I am brought to the center of town by all the soldiers, my funeral march being their parade. They have constructed a crude platform that rises above the crowd so that no man will miss my execution. Ludwig is already standing on the platform and he waits patiently as the machine and twisted clown drag me up the wooden stairs. Once more I am pushed to my knees, but this time I have the feeling that I will never be getting off of them again.
It is time.
Ludwig turns to the crowd and shouts in their language, and cheers of approval are returned to him. Behind me I hear a sword being drawn before my head is forced down. More shouts, more cheers.
"Any last words?" Ludwig is addressing me, but I have nothing to say. I never planned "Alfred's" last words. Thankfully, silence fits his pride, and Ludwig does not sound suspicious when he says, "Then this is the end."
I close my eyes. Yes, it is finally the end of me.
I do not pray. If I am a failed copy of my brother made by heaven, then I do not want heaven's help in my final moments.
Before I can stop myself, however, I make a wish.
"I wish happiness could have been mine."
Silence fueled by anticipation falls over the crowd.
This is it.
This is the end.
I hold my breath and-
The voice is loud, strong, and holds a familiarity I cannot place.
"THAT IS NOT ALFRED!"
My eyes shoot open, and for the first time I struggle against my captors so that I may raise my head.
I want to see.
I want to know.
I want to know who in this crowd made up of machines and clowns can tell I am not my brother.
My head is allowed to come up and the execution is halted as Ludwig barks orders at the crowd. I watch the soldiers split down the middle to reveal a man in the back with a hood covering his face. The man is quickly seized and brought up to the platform without a fight. The only thing the man is sure to do is keep his face hidden, which only adds to my curiosity.
Ludwig eyes the stranger with an air of annoyance. "Why are you here? This is not your war, so stay out."
"Oh, so you know who I am? But you haven't even seen my beautiful face yet."
"Everyone knows who you are. Now, why. Are. You. Here?"
I don't know who this man is. Won't someone please tell me?
"I already shouted it, didn't I? You have the wrong man. This is clearly not Alfred."
Ludwig roughly grabs the back of my head and tilts my head so that it completely faces the hooded stranger. The shadows are against me and they cover up the man's face.
"Are you not looking? This clearly is Alfred." Ludwig will not budge. He completely believes I am my brother.
The stranger is not convinced. "He is not. There are clear differences between this man and Alfred."
"Like his eyes. They have a violet tint to them." I inhale sharply. Someone… someone else can see the violet in my eyes? "And his hair is not only lighter, but also softer."
Ludwig yanks my head towards him, stares at me, and releases my hair with a growl. "Francois, there is no difference!"
I stare at the stranger with wide eyes. It can't be. Why would Francois…?
"This is Alfred! Get out of here before I execute you as well!" Ludwig advances menacingly toward the hooded stranger, and that's when this stranger makes his move as well.
The soldiers holding the stranger are down before I can blink, and my captors follow soon after. The stranger pulls me by my arm off the ground and straight into the crowd. As he forces us to jump off the platform without even asking, his hood slips off his head.
This person was never a stranger.
I want to say something, anything, but he is running away from the angry army behind us so fast that if I take my mind off trying to keep up with him I fall behind. We're going to die, I know we are. How can we outrun thousands of men with murder on their minds?
It isn't going to happen.
Night comes, I'm still alive, and I'm shocked. What shocks me even more is that I haven't heard the army for over an hour, so, unless they suddenly learned to silence their anger, we've lost them.
I'm at a loss for words.
I should be dead.
I should not be in the middle of a forest panting for breath next to a man I haven't seen for two decades.
How did my plan derail so fast?
"What were you thinking?" Francois asks between light gasps of his own.
It takes me a moment to realize he's talking to me.
I look at him, confused, and he looks at me, angry.
"What were you thinking," He repeats. "Allowing yourself to take your brother's place?!"
I feel a bit… angry, but I'm not sure why.
"What was I thinking?!" I snap back. I don't think I've ever talked this harshly to anyone before in my life. "What were you thinking, interrupting my plan, Francois?!"
"Your plan?! You were going to be killed!"
"That was the point!"
Francois doesn't reply right away.
"You… wanted to be killed?"
Francois says nothing.
"Yes, yes, yes! I wanted to be killed! If it meant my brother could live, I wanted to die! You haven't been here in years, Francois! I don't know what impression you're under, but certain things haven't changed much since the last time you were here! My brother is still the important one, he's still the one everyone loves, and I am still the one no one remembers! When I found out the enemy wanted to kill Alfred, I decided to make myself useful and take his place! Now I don't exist because I erased my records from history! If this was some attempt by you to come back and save Matthew, you're too late! He's gone Francois! What you just saved is nothing! I am nothing!"
I am not crying. I am sobbing. How long has all of this been pent up inside of me?
"Matthew…" Francois wraps his arms around me, and his embrace is so tender that all I can do is cry harder. What is he doing? Why did he come back now? "You are not nothing."
"Yes I am."
"No," He pulls back to gingerly wipe dry my tears and gaze into my eyes seriously. "You are not." He takes a deep, pain filled breath as his eyes find some far off place to gaze upon and I find myself silently pleading for his gaze to come back to me, if only for a moment. It has been so long since someone has looked into my eyes, into my soul, and I want to know if there is anything worth seeing. "A man who is nothing watches distantly as the ones he cares about immerse themselves in war. A man who is nothing avoids the kingdom and person he enjoyed as a young man because of a fear he does not understand. A man who is nothing allows the person they love most to believe they are nothing because he was not there to convince them otherwise. If there is a man who is nothing, it is me Matthew."
I understand what Francois is trying to say. He, like Alfred and Arthur, is too prideful to outright apologize.
What I do not understand is why he feels I deserve an apology. My father did not apologize for treating me lower than my brother, my brother did not apologize for getting us involved in a war so he could be closer to Arthur, and Arthur did not apologize for forgetting me on every occasion we met.
I hold nothing against any of them, and I certainly don't hold anything against Francois.
Francois may have been gone for a long time, but, in the end, he came back.
He came back.
That is more than anyone has ever done for me in the twenty-five years I've lived.
"I kept it long." My comment brings Francois' focus back to me, but it is clear that he doesn't know what I'm talking about. "My hair. You said you liked it and that I should grow it out, so I kept it longer than Alfred's all this time." A new wave of large, childish tears falls from my eyes. "I-I really wanted to show you how nice it could look long, but I had to cut it today so they'd think I was my brother. I'm s-sorry."
Francois' eyes widen before softening and returning to normal size. "It is alright," He explains as he gives me a smile that is as soft as his eyes. His fingers run through my clipped locks and I can't help but lean my head into the kind gesture. It feels nice. "Hair grows back, Matthew, and even short it is still beautiful."
"Is… Is my hair truly lighter than Alfred's? A-And, are my eyes…are they more violet than his?" I have to be sure that I am not the only person who sees these things. I have to know that Francois can truly see my brother and I are not the same.
"Yes." His hands move to cup both of my cheeks, almost as though to keep me from turning away. I am so captivated by what he has said and what he will say that my head couldn't turn if it wanted to. "To be honest Matthew, I see so many differences between you and Alfred that I am baffled every time people mix the two of you up. In my opinion, you are too lovely to mix up with that barbarian."
A quiet, wet laugh of both humor and relief comes from my lips. There is someone in the world who thinks I am something, something worth saving and remembering. My tears become joyous. "That i-isn't very nice, Francois. Alfred does have more power than I do, you know."
"Not over me. He could yell and scream at me for hours to get me to do something, and you would only have to ask me once and it would get done." His words are so honest that I feel my breath get taken away.
A new idea enters my head. It's one I've never had before, and I'm fairly sure my cheeks heat up immediately because of it. It's a new thought, but I know it's something I've wanted, deep inside, for a very long time.
"S-So… if I…if I were to… to ask for…" I've never done this before. I must be making such a fool of myself. "I-If I said I felt something for you and asked for a kiss-!"
Just as he promised, all I had to do was ask once.
Our lips connect, and I've never felt such happiness. The contact is chaste and loving, desperate and joyous. It scolds me for trying to throw my life away and thanks me for being born. It firmly implants the idea that "Matthew" is not nothing, not in the eyes of Francois. If I had received a kiss like this hours before the opposing army's attack, I would have abandoned my plan and escaped with my brother. If there was a such thing as a perfect kiss, this would be it.
Francois is the one who pulls away because he knows his limits and I had become too lost in the contact to realize I needed air. He gazes into my eyes again, and his blue eyes, so much warmer than Ludwig's, are filled with the exact same emotions the kiss was, love shining through the brightest.
"Tell me, am I still too late to save Matthew?"
A nagging question comes back to the forefront of my mind and I ask it instead of answering Francois' question. "How did you find me Francois? Why were you here in the first place?"
Like Ludwig said, this war isn't Francois' to fight.
I'm fairly sure Francois has noticed his question went unanswered, but he answers mine anyway. "Word travels fast to a neutral kingdom, and it was not long before Arthur let it slip that he planned on getting you and Alfred out of your capitol. I convinced him to allow me to come along, and together we waited for the two of you on an off-path out of town. We hid when we heard soldiers, and when the more than slightly-inebriated men walked past us they were cheering about Ludwig's plan to kill Alfred. As you might expect, Arthur went into one of his modes and charged towards the town. We were lucky to run into Alfred just as he was trying to get back in to the city. He…"
Francois tenses, but no one has ever reacted this way in front of me before so I am at a loss for what I should do to relax him. "He was shouting that he had to go back and get you because he knew you were doing something stupid, but Arthur refused to let him get near the army that wanted to kill him. An awful feeling settled in my stomach, and I didn't even hesitate to run in and find you."
His head falls and his stiffness gives way to violent shaking. My body finally reacts and my arms wrap around him in what I hope is a comforting manner. He leans into me, so I assume what I did is right. "A-And then I saw you! I saw you with y-your head bowed beneath a blade, a-and I knew Alfred had been right; that you were doing something stupid! I…I had never been so scared. I thought I had walked into a nightmare, but when I saw that it was reality… I screamed for it all to stop."
Francois lifts his head, tears dripping from his eyes, and asks me in a voice that makes him sound like a scare child, "W-Was I in time? Did I save you?"
I don't think I've smiled this genuinely since I was told, "I like your hair better. You should grow it out."
"No," I tell him bluntly, and it is so unexpected that Francois isn't even sure how to react. I smile wider. "You didn't. 'Matthew' is gone, and I never want to see him again. What you've done is brought life into someone brand knew, someone… someone who belongs only to you."
Matthew didn't smile or hold people close or ask for kisses. Neither did Alfred. Whoever I am now does those things, and it's wonderful. Like…like finally finding your way out of a thick fog and feeling the sun's rays for the first time. That's what this feels like.
Francois' face lights up as well as his tears begin to dry. "I do not think I will be able to stop calling you Matthew, though. What… what if we changed the spelling to how it is spelt in my kingdom? What if I were to call you 'Mathieu'?"
There's such a subtle variance in how he pronounces it, but the change means all the difference in the world to me. It's the same, but different, just like I am now.
"I would love to be known as 'Mathieu'."
"Then welcome to this world and to my arms, Mathieu."
Our lips connect again, and the kiss is just as magnificent as the first.
I had always believed happiness was never meant to be mine, but now I see that isn't true.
Sometimes, it just takes happiness a while to find its way back to you.
-I know a lot of people don't like it when Canada is shown to be suicidal, and I know some people who read this will think, "Oh great, another suicidal Canada fic", but I never saw it that way while I was writing it and I still don't see it that way now. He said he wanted to die, yes, but not because he had given up on life. If he had, he would have offed himself long before he got to twenty-five. I feel that the motivation behind his choice to take Alfred's place was that he thought that doing so was his duty. If you didn't get that and you still think it's just another suicidal Canada fic, then… I guess I failed in getting the message I was trying for across to you, undefined group of readers. Sorry. I still love this fic.
Thanks for reading!